5. Snow Bowl Game: AFC Divisional – New England Patriots vs Oakland Raiders
The 2001-2002 season was a roller coaster ride for the New England Patriots.
The team got off to an 0-2 start, they lost star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, and then 9/11 happens. All these unfortunate events seemed to be a rallying cry for the team though, as a young Tom Brady took over the team and led them to an 11-5 record and the AFC East title.
The playoffs began, and the Oakland Raiders came to town amid a snowstorm. This was a tough game for New England, as they struggled to move the ball for long stretches of time — and Oakland was in control for most of the game.
Brady was able to march the offense down the field however and pull to within three points before finally managing to tie the game.
Then the wheels started to turn and lady luck was certainly on the New England Patriots’ side. Late in the fourth quarter, with momentum on their side, New England seemed poised to tie the game and force overtime.
However, Charles Woodson had other plans, as he blitzed Tom Brady and knocked the ball out of his hands, forcing a fumble that Oakland recovered. The air came out of Foxboro Stadium as the faithful fans who braved the harsh weather conditions thought that the improbable season was over.
In the rulebook at the time, though, there was something called the “Tuck Rule,” which means that if the quarterback’s arm is moving forward, then it counts as an incomplete pass.
This was the first time that anyone had heard of it, and Raiders fans are still complaining about the call to this day. But they forget that New England still had to tie the game in order to force overtime.
This is where things get interesting and pulse-pounding, because in order to tie the game, Adam Vinatieri had to make a 40+ yard field goal, into the wind, and in the snow … but he made it barely, inching right over the crossbar.
As the Foxboro Faithful jumped and screamed with glee, there was more work to do as overtime approached. But have no fear, because Tom Brady led the offense down the field and put the ball in the hands — or foot — of Vinatieri to win the game 16-13, thus sending them to the AFC title game against Pittsburgh and beyond (more on that later).